Pep Guardiola warns Man City not to ease up after putting seven past Stoke

Mike Whalley

Just in case Manchester City’s  players are thinking about getting carried away with themselves, Pep Guardiola has delivered them a warning. In the aftermath of one of the best attacking performances produced by a team in the Premier League era, City’s manager declared that it would be “stupid” to start getting over-confident.

Guardiola’s caution is wise. A man of extremely high standards, the Spaniard is only too aware that his players must follow up Saturday’s demolition of Stoke by facing Napoli, a team as dangerous as any in Europe right now.

Tuesday’s Champions League meeting at the Etihad Stadium may well turn out to be the game of the season so far. City have scored 29 league goals in their opening eight games, the first English top-flight side to do that since Everton in 1894. Napoli, meanwhile, have won all eight of their Serie A matches, scoring 26 times in the process.

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The prospect of the outstanding Kevin De Bruyne taking on his in-form Belgium team-mate Dries Mertens, a player who has been compared to maverick genius Diego Maradona this season, is a mouthwatering one. With such high-quality opposition in town, Guardiola will not countenance cockiness among his players.

Kevin De Bruyne runs the showCredit: REUTERS

“Of course, if they think that, they will be stupid,” the manager said. “That isn’t going to happen.

“I am going to show Napoli to my players – how good they are. Napoli can kill you with high pressing. They are able to press our keeper. But I’m very happy to have the opportunity to play this kind of game.”

De Bruyne should be happy at the prospect too, not least because he looks ready to take on anyone at the moment. The midfielder did not score at the weekend, having a powerful shot from just outside the area turned aside by goalkeeper Jack Butland late in the first half. However, he was involved in every other way, providing two assists while being involved in the build-up for a further three goals.

Graphic: Chances created this season

In an outstanding individual display, two moments stood out. First, there was a brilliant reverse pass, played without looking, for Leroy Sane to roll across goal and allow Raheem Sterling to tap in City’s  second goal.

Then came the sublime diagonal through ball that bypassed the entire Stoke back four for Sane to run on to and slot in the sixth.

There was so much to admire in City’s attacking play, and the only downside for Guardiola was the way his players allowed a brief  revival from their rivals.

City were three goals up after only 27 minutes, with Gabriel Jesus touching in the first from Kyle Walker’s cutback, before Sterling tapped in the second and then set up David Silva to steer in the third. Mame Diouf’s deflected effort gave shell-shocked Stoke one back just before half-time, and his header from 18-year-old debutant Tom  Edwards’ cross then forced an own goal out of Walker, leaving the home support wondering if their team were somehow going to chuck the game away.

Leroy Sane celebratesCredit: PA

They need not have worried. De Bruyne slid a pass across goal for  Jesus to convert his second, before Fernandinho blasted one in from 25 yards, Sane added the sixth and Bernardo Silva poked in his first goal since arriving from Monaco.

Stoke manager Mark Hughes, who was once in charge at City, could only admire a team he sees as champions in waiting.

“The good news is that we don’t have to play Manchester City for a while,” said Hughes after seeing his side concede seven or more goals in a match for only the fourth time since the Second World War.

“Clearly I would say this after  being beaten 7-2, but they do look significantly better than anybody else in the league. We have faced Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United this season and acquitted ourselves fine – but City were just very clinical.”

Guardiola declared that he enjoys watching City’s best attacking play as much as any supporter, and it is clear that his players are having fun too. “With some of the goals we were running up, the boys were thrilled at how we had scored,” said centre-back John Stones. “Kevin is a great player and it comes from the training pitch.

Graphic: Assists in the Premier League

“But all the boys up top have been on fire and it’s from the hard work in training. It’s good to see, along with all the lads playing out from the back and starting those moves off.”

Remarkably, Saturday’s scoring feast was achieved without Sergio Aguero, left as an unused substitute after recovering from a broken rib suffered just over two weeks ago. Maybe Guardiola is saving the striker up for Napoli.

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